Wednesday, November 22, 2006


In one sense, I like Richard Dawkins. He, along with men like Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris, is a leading evangelist for thorough-going atheism. Now, I obviously do not like his atheism. But the reason I like Richard Dawkins is that he is the kind of person who makes it very clear that atheism, or "science," is really another religion that cannot be accomodated with Christianity.

He, of course, does not claim that he is religious. He recently said, "I am utterly fed up with the respect that we - all of us, including the secular among us - are brainwashed into bestowing on religion." He seems to have bought into the very common but very wrong conception that religion entails belief in a Supreme Being. While this seems plausible on the surface, it runs into insuperable difficulties when we try to use this definition in practice.

A much better definition of religious belief has been given by Roy Clouser. He writes that "a belief is a religious belief provided that:
(1) It is a belief in something as divine per se no matter how that is further described, or
(2) it is a belief about how the non-divine depends upon the divine per se, or
(3) it is a belief about how humans come to stand in proper relation to the divine per se,
(4) where the essential core of divinity per se is to have the status of unconditionally non-dependent reality" (The Myth of Religious Neutrality, p. 24).

Given this more accurate definition of religious belief, it is clear that Dawkins' naturalism is indeed a religion. Naturalism says that the cosmos is all that is, that ever was, and that ever will be (a rough quote from Carl Sagan, an evangelist for naturalism of the past generation). In other words, the cosmos has the status of unconditionally non-dependent reality. It is "god," and in naturalistic thinking, we are all extensions of this "god." Thus we are the universe trying to figure itself out. This is just another variety of paganism, a religious belief that has been around long before it illegitimately cloaked itself in the respectable garb of "science."

This all fits precisely with what the Bible teaches. The Bible says that, as creatures made in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27), all men are inescapably religious (Romans 1:18-23). They will either worship the one true and living God, or they will come up with some kind of substitute. Anything that replaces God is an idol, even if it does not have formal rites of worship (e.g. covetousness is idolatry). This stark antithesis is fundamental to biblical religion. Either you worship God as revealed in the face of Jesus Christ, or you worship an idol. Either you embrace the true religion, or you have a false religion. There is no possibility of being "non-religious."

The reason I like Richard Dawkins is that he recognizes the antithesis, despite the fact that he is confused about the nature of religion. There are far too many atheists and Christians alike who try to work out some kind of middle ground between their competing religions. But, as Dawkins correctly recognizes, it simply can't be done.

Some links to recent comments about Richard Dawkins:

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